Thursday, 29th April, 2021

[Day 409]

Some readers of this blog may vaguely be aware that very occasionally (!) if I am finding it a little difficult to sleep it is not unknown for me to get up and play for a little on the computer. The IBM ‘ThinkPad‘ I recently acquired has a very loyal following amongst its aficionados and has an amazing history of being used in space! I take the following para from a website entitled ‘IBM ThinkPads in Space‘’ and it reads as follows:

IBM ThinkPads first flew aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle on Dec. 2, 1993 on the Shuttle Endeavour’s flight to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronauts used the ThinkPads 750s to view color images and sketches of the telescope that were loaded on the computer’s hard drive….

As the 20th century drew to a close, the only notebooks certified for long-term flight on the International Space Station (ISS) were the IBM ThinkPad 760XD and the 755C. Five 76OXDs and one additional 755C were placed on ISS during the May 1999 shuttle mission (STS-96), and another seven 76OXDs and one 755C were delivered on subsequent flights. (In 2003, IBM ThinkPad A31p computers were flown to the International Space Station for in-flight testing. The A31p is scheduled to become the new ISS Portable Computer System, replacing the ThinkPad 760XD.)

The website referred to above is full of some history and NASA have only ever allowed IBM ‘ThinkPads‘ anyway near their space shuttles. I think I can remember seeing a photo of an astronaut with a ‘ThinkPad ‘in one hand (no gravity!) and a repair tool in the other – presumably following video instructions. So what I am referring to here is a kind of loyalty towards a machine which is not a great games machine, is not the fastest or the slickest but is certainly one of the more robust, being designed to last for decades if necessary in an office environment. Now I had upgraded my ‘ThinkPad‘ from XP to Windows 7 where everything seemed to be OK but without the benefit of any sound drivers. Naturally, I searched the web and tried one or two things but nothing seemed to work. But eventually I stumbled across a disk on eBay which cost the princely sum of £1.85 entitled ‘Windows Universal Driver Installation DVD – 2020 Drivers‘’. This DVD contains a program which scans the whole of your PC noting any absences of drivers and giving you the opportunity to install whatever you wanted. It noted the absence of sound drivers so I gratefully accepted the offer of installing these but neglected the opportunities to update other drivers just in case it sent the whole computer haywire. Imagine my delight, when the icon on the TaskBar went from ‘not working’ to ‘working’ – and of course, eventually, the sound seemed to be working OK. However, the volume was pretty low but I managed to discover some software settings (in different places) to boost the volume level – and then discovered two specialist keys, (not Function keys) on the ‘ThinkPad‘ which were evidently sound increase/decrease buttons and eventually I had a system with fully featured sound. I also happened to have a small, USB-driven, loudspeaker which is somewhat more than golfball size but is nonetheless much larger than the thin strip of a speaker which laptops utilise. So all in all, I must say that I am a very happy bunny having a laptop which enables me to do what I want (principally show my 30 year old statistics programs) as well as the ‘marriage’ between my digitised wedding photos and an .mp3 music file which runs alongside them which is a very accurate representation of all of the wedding music played at the original ceremony in September, 1967.

Being reminded that tomorrow is the 25th wedding anniversary of our domestic help, Meg and I decided to alter our routine somewhat. We went down into car and, having collected our newspapers, popped into our local Waitrose where we bought some anniversary presents (‘Prosecco‘, a couple of sweet pea arrangements complete with their own netting and bamboo hoops). By an extraordinary coincidence, I encountered a lady within the store clutching the same two items so we evidently had similar thoughts in mind. So we got home not particularly late but laden with gifts appropriate for the occasion, we hope! Meg also passed on a brand-new item of clothing which was no longer wanted or needed but proved to be an exact fit.

In the extraordinary maelstrom which is contemporary UK politics, it looks as though the noose is tightening around Boris John’s neck as it now appears, more likely than not, that a donor to the Conservative party had quite illegally paid for Boris Johnson’s flat renovations (now rumoured to be £200,000 whilst the taxpayer provides the first £30,000) Some reports are indicating that one of the reasons for the expense is that Johnson’s ‘girlfriend’ has a penchant for gold wallpaper. Meanwhile the great British public do not seem to care at all as the Conservatives are now polling at 44%, unchanged from a week earlier. whilst Labour was down a point on 33%.